Winter can be wonderful, but it
also poses hazards, especially for older adults.
The American Geriatric Society's Foundation
for Health in Aging offers some winter safety
tips for older adults and their caregivers.
Older adults have a slower metabolism, which
means they produce less body heat -- rendering
them more vulnerable to hypothermia. Hypothermia's
symptoms include shivering; cold skin that is
pale or ashy; feeling tired and weak; problems
walking; and slowed breathing or heart rate.
In extremely cold temperatures, elderly individuals
should try to stay indoors and keep rooms heated
to at about 65 degrees F, keep dry, and wear
two or three thin layers of loose-fitting clothing
and a hat, gloves, coat, boots and scarf when
People with heart disease and other circulation
problems are also more prone to frostbite. Signs
of this problem include numbness; pale or grayish-yellow
skin; or skin that is hard or waxy to the touch.
To prevent frostbite, keep all body parts covered
and protected from the cold. If your skin begins
to ache or turn red or dark, go indoors immediately.
Ice and snow increase the risk of falls, which
can be especially dangerous to older persons
whose bones are more fragile. Reduce the risk
of falls by carefully shoveling steps and walkways
to your home. But shoveling has its own risks
for injury: talk to your doctor about whether
it's safe to shovel. It might be a good idea
to hire someone to do this for you.
Wear boots with non-skid soles and, if you
use a cane, replace the rubber tip before it's
worn smooth, the experts advised.